LPN to RN Programs: How To Bridge To A Registered Nurse

Licensed Practical Nurses play a vital role in the healthcare system, but their duties and earning potential are limited. This is why many opt to advance their nursing education by enrolling in an LPN to RN program.

By becoming a Registered Nurse, you can practice more autonomously, earn a higher salary, and have more career advancement opportunities. 

If you’re an LPN looking to enter an RN bridge program, this article is the perfect place to start. Below, we cover everything you need to know about LPN to RN programs.

What Is an LPN to RN Program?

An LPN to RN program allows Licensed Practical Nurses to become Registered Nurses in the most streamlined way possible.

Since LPNs already have some nursing education and experience, a bridge program lets them utilize their credentials to advance their nursing career quicker and cheaper than a traditional Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree program.

These programs prepare LPNs to pass the NCLEX and gain the more advanced knowledge and skills necessary to succeed as an RN.

If you’re an LPN and want to take on more responsibility and earn a higher salary, an LPN to RN program is your best option.

What Is An LPN?

An LPN, or Licensed Practical Nurse, is tasked with providing very basic care to patients and assisting Registered Nurses with simpler duties.

The responsibilities of an LPN typically include:

  • Helping patients with dressing, eating, and hygiene
  • Assisting other healthcare team members with keeping records and communication
  • Taking blood pressure and vitals

To become a Licensed Practical Nurse, you need to complete a one-year LPN program at a community college and pass the NCLEX-PN. Once you pass the exam, you’ll officially be an LPN and begin working in a healthcare facility.

If you’re not sure if nursing is right for you and want to gain some experience before committing to a longer degree program, becoming an LPN first can be a good way to get experience and “test the waters.”

What Is an RN?

An RN, or Registered Nurse, on the other hand, can perform more advanced duties than an LPN. Some of the duties of RNs include:

  • Collaborating with healthcare team members to develop patient treatment plans
  • Assessing patients and performing diagnostic tests
  • Administering medication

Since they perform more complicated work than the very basic care that LPNs provide, they also require more advanced education and training. This is the purpose of an LPN to RN bridge program: providing LPNs the knowledge and skills necessary to perform these more advanced responsibilities.

Once you complete the bridge program, you’ll be prepared to take NCLEX. Upon passing the exam, you’ll officially be a Registered Nurse and can begin providing more direct patient care.

Fortunately, the more complicated RN role also provides a higher salary and more opportunities for advancement. If you want to advance your nursing career as an LPN, enrolling in a bridge program is your best option.

Types of LPN to RN Programs

While there’s only one degree pathway to become an Licensed Practical Nurse, there are two different nursing degree levels for becoming an RN: LPN to ADN and LPN to BSN.

We provide a brief overview of both pathways below.


The first type of LPN to RN degree pathway is the LPN to ADN. At the completion of this type of bridge program, you’ll have your Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN).

While this is the quicker of the two bridge program options, the scope of an ADN-educated Registered Nurse is the more limited of the two pathways. For non-LPNs, an ADN degree can be completed in just two years at a community college.

This pathway will provide you basic nursing knowledge and prepare you to pass the NCLEX, but your job and career advancement opportunities will be much more limited when compared to the second option.

Additionally, if you hope to work at a Magnet Hospital or distinguished healthcare facility, an Associate’s degree will not be enough. However, if you’re looking to become an RN as quickly as possible and you’re not concerned with career advancement right now, an ADN could be a good option.

If you get your Associate’s Degree in Nursing and decide you want to get more advanced education, you can always enroll in an online RN to BSN program down the road. 


The second LPN to RN pathway is the LPN to BSN. While this option takes more time and is a bigger commitment, this is the track we typically recommend. However, every nurse’s needs, interests, and aspirations are different, so you need to choose what’s right for you.

At the completion of an LPN to BSN program, you’ll have your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). For non-LPNs, a BSN program typically takes about four years to complete. Unlike the ADN, a BSN cannot be completed through a community college program.

Similar to the ADN, a BSN prepares nurses to pass the NCLEX and become a Registered Nurse. However, because Bachelor’s degree programs provide graduates with more advanced knowledge and skills, they’re qualified to take on more advanced roles and duties (and earn a higher salary than their AND-educated counterparts).

Additionally, a BSN is necessary if you hope to work in a Magnet hospital or top-tier healthcare facility.

Finally, if you’re interested in further educational advancement, like a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN), a Bachelor’s degree will set the foundation you need to be successful in getting your MSN. You’ll also be better prepared to take on a range of nursing specializations unavailable to RNs with an Associate’s degree.

If you hope to continually advance your nursing career as a Licensed Practical Nurse, enrolling in an LPN to BSN program is definitely the best option.

Why Enroll In An LPN to RN Program?

If you’re currently an LPN and want to advance your nursing career, becoming an RN is a must.

The following are the benefits of enrolling in an LPN to RN bridge program.

1. Higher Salary

One of the best advantages of enrolling in an LPN to RN bridge program and becoming a Registered Nurse is the boost it gives to your earning potential.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses earn an average salary of $48,070 per year. Meanwhile, BLS reports that the average annual salary for Registered Nurses is $77,600 per year.

Additionally, Registered Nurses can choose to pursue more advanced specialities and increase their earning potential by even more money.

Becoming an RN is also a good idea because it can prepare you to go for even more advanced nursing education, like your MSN. The average annual salary for APRNs, like Nurse Practitioners, is $123,790 according to BLS.

If earning a higher salary is a priority for you, becoming an RN will be vital.

2. More Responsibility

The reason Registered Nurses make more money than their LPN counterparts is that they are qualified to take on more responsibilities and provide more direct patient care.

Even if salary isn’t your main concern, if having a bigger impact on patients’ lives is important to you, enrolling in an LPN to RN program is key.

LPNs still play a critical role in any healthcare facility, but their duties are more basic than that of an RN. By becoming a Registered Nurse, you can play a bigger part in caring for patients, and even take on a multitude of speciality positions where you can provide more niche care to patients.

RNs have far more autonomy than LPNs, so if having more freedom is important to you, enrolling in an LPN to RN bridge program is a must.

3. Better Advancement Opportunities

Finally, one more advantage to becoming an RN as opposed to remaining an LPN is that it will open up a host of advancement opportunities.

For example, as we mentioned before, experienced RNs can pursue a huge variety of specialities where they can provide a higher level of care to patients.

Additionally, becoming an RN is a must if you hope to pursue advanced education, like a Master’s of Science in Nursing or Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.

As always, the more advanced your education, the more complex nursing roles you can take on. And the more complex roles you can take on, the higher your salary will be.

If you hope to become an APRN, or even take on an advanced, non-clinical nursing positions, like a Nurse Manager or Nurse Educator, enrolling in an LPN to RN program is a critical first step.

What Can You Do With An LPN to RN Degree?

Put simply, enrolling in an LPN to RN program allows you to become a Registered Nurse, which opens up a host of new nursing opportunities. 

While LPNs have a limited role and provide assistance to RNs and other nursing staff, Registered Nurses can practice with more autonomy in a number of different specialties. A few of these specialities can include:

  • Critical Care Nurse
  • ER Nurse
  • CVICU Nurse
  • Adult-gerontology Nurse
  • Pediatric Nurse

Additionally, an LPN to RN program sets the educational foundation you need to enroll in an advanced degree program, like the Master’s of Science in Nursing. Getting your MSN prepares you for advanced nursing roles, like:

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Midwife
  • CRNA
  • Nurse Educator

Becoming a licensed RN is the first step to taking on any nursing specialty.

How Much Does An LPN to RN Program Cost?

The cost of an LPN to RN program depends on a number of factors. The price can vary a lot based on whether you:

  • Attend an in-state or out-of-state program
  • Enroll in a public or private university
  • Choose an online or on-campus program
  • Go for your ADN or BSN

If you want to get your degree for the least amount of money possible, you’ll want to choose an LPN to RN program that is:

  • In-state
  • At a public university
  • Online
  • Awards you an ADN

While these options will allow you to get your degree for the least amount of money possible, they won’t be the best option for everyone. For example, many aspiring RNs will want to get their BSN as opposed to their ADN, which can increase earning potential and allow you to take on more advanced nursing roles.

So, take some time to think about your long-term goals before choosing a program.

How Long Is An LPN to RN Program?

As an LPN, you already have some nursing experience and knowledge, which means you can become an RN faster than someone with no prior healthcare experience.

While an Associate Degree in Nursing program typically takes two years to complete for non-LPNs, Licensed Practical Nurses can complete an ADN program in as little as a year.

Additionally, a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing program usually takes about four years to complete for non-LPNs. However, you complete an LPN to BSN program in as little as two to four years.

The time it takes to bridge from LPN to RN can vary a lot from program to program and person to person, so be sure to do a little research on the programs you’re interested in to find out exactly how long it will likely take.

LPN to RN Curriculum

The LPN to RN curriculum can vary a lot depending on which school you choose and whether you opt to bridge to an ADN or BSN.

However, to give you an idea of some of the courses you may take in an LPN to RN program, here is a list of courses from the program at West Kentucky Community & Technical College:

  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • General Psychology
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • CPR for Healthcare Providers
  • Behavioral Health Nursing
  • Writing I
  • Maternal Newborn Nursing
  • Medical/Surgical Nursing
  • Medical Microbiology
  • Pediatric Nursing

As you can see, while a majority of the courses are nursing-focused, you’ll also need to complete some general education requirements like a writing course and humanities course.

LPN to RN Admission Requirements

While the admission requirements for every LPN to RN program can vary, there are some general requirements that most programs will ask you to have.

Here is an example of LPN to RN admission requirements for the program at Monroe College. This program has a limited number of seats and claims to only accept the most qualified candidates, so the requirements for other programs may not be quite as stringent:

  • Proficient Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) scores of 70 or higher
  • A copy of your valid LPN license
  • High school transcripts
  • C+ or higher in algebra, biology, and chemistry courses at the high school or college level
  • LPN Knowledge Based Assessment Exam
  • Competency Assessment in Pharmacology and Dosage Calculation

Remember, requirements may be different if you look at another school. Be sure to do a little research before applying to ensure you meet the minimum qualifications for enrollment.

How To Go From LPN To RN

The process of going from LPN to RN is pretty straightforward. 

Below, we detail the steps you should take to apply to and enroll in an LPN to RN bridge program.

1. Determine Your Goals

Before you start applying to LPN to RN programs, it’s a good idea to consider your long-term nursing goals. This will help you determine what type of bridge program you want to enroll in.

For example, if you want to become an RN as quickly as possible, you should consider enrolling in an LPN to ADN program. If you choose this pathway, you can always enroll in an RN to BSN program down the road.

On the other hand, if you want to pursue more advanced nursing roles, or if you think you may want to eventually enroll in an MSN program, you should consider enrolling in an LPN to BSN program.

2. Research LPN to RN Programs

Once you’ve determined your goals, you’re ready to start researching programs that can help you attain those goals. 

If you’re looking to become an ADN-educated nurse, be sure to check out LPN to ADN programs.

If you want to become a BSN-educated nurse, then check out LPN to BSN programs.

Additionally, be sure to look for programs that align with your other needs, like:

  • Cost
  • Online vs on-campus programs
  • In-state vs out-of-state programs
  • Time to completion of the degree

3. Apply to LPN to RN Programs

Once you’ve found a few programs that align with your interests, needs, and goals, you’re ready to start applying to schools.

Be sure to check out different programs’ admission requirements and curriculums.

Finally, once you’re accepted to a program, you can enroll and start working toward the completion of your degree. 

Once you complete the bridge program and pass the NCLEX, you’ll officially be a licensed Registered Nurse and can begin applying to more advanced nursing roles that require an RN license.

Can You Bridge From LPN to RN Online?

You can bridge from LPN to RN online. Many schools now offer an online option to help you become a licensed Registered Nurse for relatively little money and time.

While these programs will feature a clinical component, many schools will help you find a location to complete your clinical work.

Remember, online degrees are the cheapest and quickest option for aspiring nurses, which can make them the best choice for LPNs looking to bridge to an RN.

How Do Clinicals Work With Online LPN to RN Programs?

Clinical education must always be on-site. Online LPN to RN programs approach the clinical requirement in the following two ways.

1. Clinicals At Predetermined Sites

Schools with predetermined clinical sites typically choose sites in the same region as the school’s physical campus.

Some schools may have a regular clinical schedule where students show up at the clinical sites regularly throughout the program. This type of arrangement is generally best for students who are local but prefer to complete their coursework online.

Other schools with predetermined clinicals plan their rotations to be intensive and not concurrent with coursework. For example, a term of coursework may conclude with two weeks straight of clinical-only education.

Often, out-of-area students will choose to enroll in these programs and travel to the area for their clinicals.

2. Authorized Clinicals Arranged In The Student’s Local Area

The second type of arrangement takes some planning on the student’s part. However, it’s much more flexible for online learners.

These programs usually have certain areas where students are authorized to perform clinical rotations. The authorized areas depend on state regulations.

Students are responsible for arranging their clinical experiences. If you’re interested in this type of program, it’s possible that the school will have recommendations of facilities.

However, it’s a good idea to start contacting facilities ASAP to find out whether they offer clinical education for nursing students.

3 Pros of Online LPN to RN Programs

While enrolling in any LPN to RN program is a great way to advance your career, online programs offer specific advantages that on-campus programs do not.

The following are three reasons to opt for an online LPN to RN program.

1. Flexibility

One of the most appealing aspects of online learning programs is that they allow you to study and participate at any time of day.

Some classes may incorporate scheduled online meetings. However, you will typically be given most of your materials, assignments, and due dates ahead of time.

Then you can complete your work whenever it fits with your schedule.

2. Personalization

Without the pressure of in-person class sessions, online students can shape their learning experience. This allows students to learn without wasting time in class with a format that doesn’t work for them.

For example, if you’re a visual learner and your in-person class is a standard lecture format, it’s likely that you’ll have to spend even more time outside of class using materials that better suit you.

When learning online, you can choose the methods that work best for you without wasting time on ones that don’t.

3. Comfort and Cost

The ability to pursue a degree in the comfort of your own home is a selling point for a lot of people. Comfortable and familiar surroundings can facilitate learning by allowing students to relax and focus on the material.

Additionally, the cost of online programs is almost always less than that of on-campus programs, making them an excellent option for those concerned about the cost of their degree.

Is It Easy To Go From LPN to RN?

One of the most common fears that nurses have about returning to school to become an RN is how difficult the schooling may be.

Nursing education is rigorous no matter what path you take. However, keeping the following things in mind may make it a little easier.

Getting Back Into An Academic Mindset

After working as a nurse for any amount of time, it can be hard to get back into an academic mindset. You’ve gotten out there as a nurse and gained experience. You’ve seen the reality of the job and learned real-world nursing skills.

Once you’ve experienced the job firsthand, you’ll be more than prepared for the “perfect world” scenarios presented in nursing school.

Clinical Experience Can Be Incredibly Valuable

It may be tough to separate the “real world” knowledge you’ve gained from what you’ll be learning in an LPN to RN bridge program.

However, the good news is that you don’t necessarily have to.

Clinical experience means you know what its like to be in certain situations. This means you are better able to apply what you learn in the classroom to those scenarios.

Clinicals Will Be More Manageable

Nursing experience also offers another major bonus: your program clinicals won’t be nearly as scary.

Most nurses remember how terrifying the first clinical rotation in nursing school can be. However, now you’ve been through it and worked as an LPN.

Touching patients is old news. Difficult families are a dime a dozen. Looking for equipment and supplies is the norm.

You’ve gotten the hang of communicating with your healthcare team, and hopefully you’ve become a pro at asking questions when you need more information to do your job.

Managing Your Schedule

You’ll need to make time in your schedule to devote to school. Even after completing an LPN program, some nurses underestimate how much time they’ll need to commit to their bridge program.

Because of this most, LPN to RN programs strongly discourage students from trying to work full-time while in school. It’s understandable that many people may not have the option to cut back on work hours. However, if you have the option, it’s important to take it seriously.

On top of needing hours for studying, the stressors of working in healthcare can keep you distracted and preoccupied. This is true even when you’re off your shift.

Finding the right work-school balance is essential for success in nursing school. Fortunately, online LPN to RN programs do provide you with a lot of schedule flexibility.

Tips to Prepare For an LPN to RN Bridge Program

Once you’ve made the decision to bridge from LPN to RN and chosen a program, there are steps you can take to help you transition back to being a student.

The following advice will ensure you have the best possible experience.

1. Make Study Time Part of Your Routine

When you aren’t used to being in school, it can be hard to commit time to coursework. Carving out time in your day or week before you have assignments to do can help to establish a routine.

Before your program starts, use this time to do things like:

  • Read
  • Research nursing topics
  • Brush up on current events in nursing

2. Tell Friends and Family About Your Plans

Support and understanding from the people around you can make all the difference in your nursing school experience.

When your friends and loved ones know that you’ll be in school, they’ll be more likely to offer help with things like kids or home obligations. They’ll also be more understanding of your absence from social activities.

3. Outline Your Program From Start To Finish

When nursing school gets tough and time-consuming, you may feel like you’ve been at it forever with no end in sight.

Always remind yourself of how far you’ve come and how close you are to completion. This can keep you in a positive mindset.

4. Brush Up On Topics From Earlier Schooling

You may have been able to get credit for classes completed years ago, but that doesn’t mean you’re fully prepared for further education on those topics. After all, not many people retain all of what they studied in chemistry or biology years ago.

If your school requires further coursework in subjects that you studied awhile ago, go back and look at the main topics before diving back in.

Is An LPN to RN Program Worth It?

Given the higher earning potential, increased autonomy, and career advancement opportunities, an LPN to RN program is likely worth the investment.

While bridging from LPN to RN does require a substantial commitment in terms of money, time, and work, it really can do wonders for your career.

If you’re currently an LPN and are looking for a new career challenge, we highly recommend enrolling in an LPN to RN bridge program.

Click here to find a nursing program that’s right for you!


The following are frequently asked questions for those considering LPN to RN pathways.

Is Becoming an LPN Before An RN Worth It?

If you’re not sure you want to commit to the nursing profession long term, becoming an LPN before an RN can be worth it. Since you can become an LPN in about a year, you don’t have to invest as much money and time into becoming an LPN.

By becoming an LPN before an RN, you can gain some nursing experience and determine if it might be a good long-term career choice.

However, if you’re passionate about nursing and know it’s the right career choice for you, we recommend going straight for your RN license as soon as possible.

Can You Be An LPN and RN At The Same Time?

Technically you can hold an LPN and RN license at the same time. If you enroll in an LPN to RN program and become a licensed RN, you’ll be qualified for both LPN and RN roles.

However, since RNs make a lot more money and can practice with much more autonomy, it’s likely you’ll want to pursue RN roles as opposed to LPN roles at the completion of your bridge program.

What’s the Difference Between LPN and RN?

While an LPN has a more limited and assistance-focused nursing role, an RN has more autonomy and responsibility. 

RNs are also qualified to take on more specialized roles, and only Registered Nurses are able to enroll in advanced degree programs like a Master’s of Science in Nursing or Doctorate of Nursing Practice.

Get The Latest Nursing News In Your Inbox

Stay on top of the latest word that affects your career.

More To Explore

It's time For the next step

Whether it's a new a job, or continuing your education, BetterNurse.org is your career partner.